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Review: Gimme, gimme more BANKS, an artist on the rise

July 10, 2019
This cover image released by Harvest Records shows "III", the latest release by BANKS. (Harvest Records via AP)
This cover image released by Harvest Records shows "III", the latest release by BANKS. (Harvest Records via AP)

BANKS, “III” (Harvest Records)

You could call BANKS’ first single in a few years steamy — but you’d be off-base. “Gimme” is absolutely erotic, an explicit, hyper-racy club song — maybe a sex club song? — that announces the return of an artist in complete control. “I been dripping for your love,” she sings. “Driving me crazy with the way you whine.”

It’s the highlight of the appropriately titled “III,” BANKS’ third album and one that jackhammers into the dark, murky pop vein that other young women like Tove Lo, Meg Myers and Lorde also mine.

Born Jillian Banks, BANKS released her debut album, “Goddess,” in 2014, with her follow-up LP, “The Altar,” arriving in 2016. Her songs have been featured in the HBO series “Girls” and fueled the opening act for The Weeknd.

“III” finds BANKS co-writing every track and collaborating with some high-level producers, including Buddy Ross (Frank Ocean) and BJ Burton (Bon Iver, Lizzo). It’s got highs but also lows, particularly when the production elements overwhelm BANKS’ warm and hypnotic vocals.

In addition to “Gimme,” the standout tracks on the 13-tune album include the sludgy gem “Contaminated” and the bright collaboration with Francis and the Lights’ “Look What You’re Doing to Me.” BANKS’ vocal fluttery range is on glorious display in “Propaganda,” she’s playful in “Alaska” and her voice is barely above a whisper in the exquisite ballad “If We Were Made of Water.”

But “Hawaiian Mazes” is overcooked, marred by silly lounge arrangements, “Sawzall” never really gels, and “Stroke” and “Godless” meander. Lyrically, you might want to pass on the album if you were ever a dissatisfying lover to BANKS. She’s got very specific imagery and a keen understanding of narcissists.

The album ends on a wistful note with “What About Love” as BANKS sings softly over orchestral swells. “Maybe if we just rewind the tape?” she asks. “We could grow older.”

It’s so innocent and hopeful that she even adds the voice of her young niece. It’s right then, as the wispy song flits away, that you realize how far you’ve come with this dynamite artist, who just a few songs before was urgently demanding “Gimme, gimme what I want.”

BANKS, at her best, is what you want.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits